Monday, May 22, 2017

In Which I Review American Gods (1x4)

It's time to slow the journey down, take a load off, and look at the map--where have we been and where are we going? This week's episode "Git Gone" is fairly different than the first three installations of the series; it moves away from the gods--though they are, of course, always there lurking just out of sight in some neat visual cues--and instead focus on the mystery of Laura Moon and her remarkable, perhaps miraculous, return to the world of the living after dying in a car crash. This episode serves two purposes; first it's a nice breather after three straight episodes of crazy hijinks and mind blowing visuals; second it ponders the question that naturally arises on a show that has the concept of belief as its cornerstone, namely what happens when you don't believe in anything? Grab your favorite brand of bug spray and let's go!

Laura Moon is dead. And then, suddenly one night on a dark road, Laura Moon died. Okay, those two sentences make zero sense when read back unless you get inside Laura's head while she was alive which is exactly what this episode is. In order to understand why Laura is following Shadow around in the present, trailing after him like a metaphorical and, as it turns out, literal ghost, you must first understand the woman in question. It turns out long before she died, Laura was already dead on the inside. I don't even know if ennui is a strong enough word to describe Laura's internal workings because ennui suggests that the person affected will eventually get over it and return to their previous disposition. With Laura there is no such assumption. Her life is best characterized as lifeless; she has a crappy job, lives in a crappy home, has neither excitement nor passion for anyone or anything, and the only way she knows to break out of this mind numbing tedium and, in essence, take her life into her own hands, is by risking said life. There are people out there who take risks, daredevils and the like, who say that they only feel alive when they are pushing the limits of their safety. But Laura's not propelling down a mountain or jumping out of a plane; the actions Laura takes aren't just dangerous physically but also emotionally. She climbs into her hot tub, covers it up, and sprays highly toxic bug spray, letting the fumes wash over her and almost take her last breath before breaking through to the surface. This isn't to say that Laura wants to die; there are easier ways to kill yourself. Laura likes really rough sex and there's certainly nothing wrong with that but it's part of her need to feel alive that, one, she enjoys the rough sex with a stranger she picked up in a dark parking lot and two doesn't seem to enjoy traditional love making with her husband. Every major action we see Laura take, from the bug spray, to planning to rob the casino, to her affair with Robbie is all designed to make her feel alive because Laura has never felt alive. Marriage and life with Shadow were simply going through the motions and happiness only comes in a hairbrained plan to rob a casino, something Laura swears she has the perfect plan for but actually lands her husband in jail. What's great about this episode, though, is not just that we get inside Laura's head for the first time this season but that her lack of life during her life is wrapped up in belief. Like everything else on American Gods, belief plays a central role, but this is the other end of the spectrum. Laura doesn't believe in anything. She went looking for belief once because her parents fed her all the traditional stories and those tales were like magic to her. But when she really went looking for the root of belief, Laura found nothing and so nothing is what she believes in. It's not just the gods that escape her worship, she doesn't believe in TV or love or family or happiness. There's nothing in this world that can capture her heart and so at the moment of her death, Anubis (who serves as her guide into the next life even though Laura is not an Egyptian nor had any Egyptian upbringing?) tells Laura that her afterlife will be nothing; she believed in nothing so to nothing she will go. There won't even be peace, only darkness. It's that fear combined with the coin Shadow threw on Laura's grave that calls her back to the real world and suddenly, for the first time in probably her entire life, Laura is alive. Sure, she's still technically dead and her body is decomposing and falling away, but Laura Moon finally has something to believe in. She believes in Shadow.

  Miscellaneous Notes on Git Gone 

--There's a nice moment early on where Laura learns that she and her card shuffling talent are going to be replaced by a machine. It's a continuation of the through-line established with the likes of Czernobog. Even humans are being replaced by the new god, Technology.

--"All I know is there's more than I know."

--There are a few really great visual touches throughout the episode, like a fly constantly buzzing around Laura before she actually dies and, on the night Laura and Robbie take off on their last car ride, two ravens are perched just outside Laura's house, watching and possibly following.

--Also, a not so subtle visual, but Laura Moon kicked a man in the balls and his entire brain and spinal cord shot out of his head. It was maybe one of the coolest things I've ever seen.

--We meet Anubis's other half, a tall thin man with spectacles. More on him in future weeks, I'd wager. Also, if you were looking close enough we actually met the third companion of this Egyptian trio of gods.

--"Are you haunting me?" "Not on purpose. I needed craft supplies."

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